Bill Cowher's weekly press conference

Opening Statement: Ben had the MRI this morning. Basicially it's what we thought last night. He has a hyper-extension of his knee and a bone bruise. I am not going to rule him out this week. We'll see how the week progresses. The intial diagnoses by Dr. (Jim) Bradley was confirmed this morning. I think we'll all have a deep sigh of relief in regards to the diagnoses.

Bill Cowher: The other thing is with Tommy Maddox, we thought it was like Jerome (Bettis) in terms of what the extent of it was. Obviously in the short period of time before we left. Tommy came in this morning and felt pretty good. There's a good chance he'll be available this week. I guess the dire situation we thought we had coming in here this morning, doesn't appear to be that right now. No roster moves are pending. We'll look at how some of these things occur over the course of the next couple of days and we'll go from there. The only player who came out of the game injury-wise that will not play is Ricardo Colclough. He has a shoulder injury. He's definitely out this week. Everyone else should be available and again, I'll have a better sense of that as the week goes on. It was a very physical football game as you saw. We were very fortunate to come out of it with a win. Coming off a short week and playing another good football team in Jacksonville, another physical football team, this will be a big challenge for us, just being able to put together back-to-back wins. And if you don't, it really will minimize what we were able to do last night. Our guys understand that. You can only enjoy things for so long. You've got to keep things in perspective. We're still in second place in this division and nobody's going to be feeling sorry for you. I'm glad we're playing at home, but we're playing a very good Jacksonville team.

Q: Can you talk about the decision to go with Jerome instead of Duce (Staley) and how that might play out this week?
BC: I think, unfortunately as I sat down and talked to Duce, Duce didn't have a chance to go through a training camp. He really hasn't had a chance to put together any practices. You look at Jerome, Jerome went through all of training camp and he got hurt right as we broke camp. I think that Duce, quite frankly, may not be 100 percent all year. He's working to get better and he's working at it and at some point, we may need him. He understands the situation. That was why the decision was made. It's always a tough decision to make. But Jerome Bettis, he gives you something. He's a very special back. He's a Hall of Fame back. He has come in the last few years with a sense of purpose in camp. He came in this camp, it was the best I've seen him run in training camp probably in the last three or four years. I thought he had an outstanding camp and that's why we were only running him a little bit. I think that with the bye week and he had a chance to practice - I say that whole week, but we only had one practice - you watched him practice last week and he had that bounce, you see him running and jumping and jump-cutting, doing the things that he does. I just think it's good to have a couple of guys. And Duce is going to be there, he's getting better each week. We can ease him into it and not have to rush him into it. It's just a luxury we have right now.

Q: Is Ricardo week-to-week? Do you know much more about his health?
BC: He's out this week. I'll let you know more next week.

Q: Will you use Jerome and (Willie) Parker the same as last night?
BC: In an ideal world, yes. I don't know how it's always going to unfold. That's hard because it's kind of a feel thing. You just don't know how games are going to unfold. It was nice to be able to have a fresh Jerome Bettis in the fourth quarter. That's what you'd like to have in an ideal world. You get the situation we had last night, where he was fresh and running downhill. The one thing I knew when we handed the ball to him, it was not going to be a negative play. On one play, we let a guy through and he got hit in the backfield and still ran for two yards. When he's fresh in the fourth quarter and you're in the situation we're in last night, that's a nice situation to be in.

Q: How big was his pass blocking? It seemed like the protection was better when he was in there.
BC: It was good. I thought in general, we did a good job of protecting him. I think they all did a good job.

Q: Coach, how does having three healthy backs take the pressure off if you have a bad quarterback situation?
BC: We're going to have healthy backs. It doesn't alleviate any pressure on the quarterback. It's going to be there week-in and week-out. You've got to have balance in this league. It's not like you sit there and say, ‘OK we've got all of our backs, we don't need a quarterback.' You need a quarterback in this league. Jacksonville's a pretty good defense. It's nice that we have a Charlie Batch and Tommy Maddox. The fact is that the news on Ben is very good. There's a lot to be said about having veteran guys who have lined up and won games in the National Football League, who have won playoff games in the National Football League. That's what we have in all three of those quarterbacks. It's probably a little bit of a luxury going in, but it's proven to be nothing less than that right now.

Q: If Ben is unavailable and Maddox is less than 100 percent, would Batch start? Or would that depend on how healthy Maddox is?
BC: That's something we have to look at. Just based on the information, I have right now, Charlie Batch is the starter by default until I see more.

Q: There was a lot of talk that somebody was going to trade for Charlie. Was there any talk?
BC: Charlie's here, that's the most important thing. And we're glad to have him.

Q: It's so early in his career, but when you see the way Ben leads the team back in the fourth quarter and the way Jeff Reed hits the clutch field goal, does that change the way you coach a game?
BC: No. I don't think so. We've evolved into this. Jeff Reed has evolved into a very confident kicker. A very clutch kicker. We've made some big kicks. You play close football games and you win close football games, when you do that, it develops a confidence. You go down like when they came down and scored late, there was never a feeling that if they came down and we didn't stop them, we weren't going to win that game. The most important thing was stopping them on the 2-point play. That gave us an opportunity to win the game. Even when they scored, when you looked up, there was a lot of time left, there was like four minutes to play in the game. I thought one of the most important things was the kickoff return. The kickoff return really allowed us to run the ball. By giving us that field position and knowing that all we needed was a field goal to win the game, it brought back both dimensions. Now if you get backed to minus-20, all of a sudden, it takes you two minutes to get a first down. Now you're looking at minus-30 with less than two minutes to go, I'm not so sure how much the run becomes an option. The kickoff return allowed us to utilize our offense, run and pass. That played to our advantage. There were a lot of things we were able to do with this football team, even going back to the New England game. Unfortunately, we didn't stop them at the end, but the fact we were able to come back and score and tie that game up was big. That also was ignited by another kickoff return. Those are things you can build off of and learn from. There's a confidence you can build by winning close football games. You don't want to be in too many of them, but in this league, it's going to be that way. There's a fine line between winning and losing because of the quality of teams. This week is no different. This is a good football team. Just go back to a year ago. It took a last second field goal to beat them down there on a Sunday night game. That Sunday night game, a lot of people came out of that game last night and said this game reminded them of last year in Jacksonville. We won that game on a field goal. It was a physical football game on national television. Walla! Who do we get to play this week? Jacksonville. It's going to be a game where we're going to have to muster it back up again. Hopefully we can keep it close and find a way to win in the end.

Q: On the 2-point conversion, did Foote just make a great read and a great stop on that?
BC: It was a good defense. I think everyone executed it. I think we hit the play, we executed it and we stopped them.

Q: Are you going to back off this week to get everybody rested?
BC: Yeah. We're not coming in tomorrow until 12:30 for the players. We needed some time as coaches. No one's gone to bed. We all came right in here from the plane. Yeah, it's going to be a tough week. It's a short week. I won't put the pads on them. They hit enough last night and they're going to be hitting a lot Sunday afternoon. It's going to be very important that we get quality work out there this week. We've been in this situation before and we understand that. The most important thing is that we understand what we were able to accomplish and achieve last night will go for naught if we don't follow it up with a stellar performance. If we don't, we will not compete with the team from Jacksonville. We cannot show up with anything less than our best effort.

Q: Bill, you said last night you were impressed with the job Troy (Polamalu) did on (Antonio) Gates. He's a pretty special player.
BC: He is. The defense as a whole, and I know that second half, they came down the last four times and scored. But in the first half, what I said before, we were able to come out and keep that game close until the second half. I was a little concerned that if they came out of the gates and went up early, then it becomes a tough tack. The defense, I thought, did an oustanding job in that first half creating field position, stopping them on third down, containing LaDanian (Tomlinson). Troy did a great job, our front seven did an outstanding job with its discipline on run support. Our corners did a very good job when they tried to go deep. It seemed like we didn't give up any big plays. When they did hit a big play, they hit a swing pass. They got the ball in 21's hands. Every now and then he's going to do that. That was probably the only big play. I know they hit a pass across the middle one time, but I just thought we did a good job on defense all night, particularly in the red zone in the third quarter when we held them. I think they kicked three field goals there. That was big.

Q: When you play a physical game like that, that when the penalties happen? You don't want to tell your team not to be physical. Is that something you have to look at?
BC: Yeah. The penalties you separate into pre-snap and post-snap. The pre-snap, I know we jumped offside one time with Kimo (von Oelhoffen). We had a couple when the noise became a factor. Some of the post-snap penalties, we had the one on Troy on the sideline. I don't know what happened over there. Some of the other ones, it's hard to say. You have to overcome. I thought we played with a lot of emotion. I thought at times, we kind of lost our composure, but for the most part, you don't want them to lose that passion - as long as it doesn't cross the line. I thought we did a good job last night of playing within ourselves. I told somebody last night that Marty (Schottenheimer) must have given the same speech that I gave our guys because I don't think either team liked each other very much.

Q: Hey Coach, are more penalties being called this year?
BC: No. I'll say this, I know sometimes you think I'm mad at the officials, but I'll say this, those guys do an unbelievable job. If you're down there on that field, the speed of the game, things that take place. The most impressive thing is that they're able to keep their composure as they explain things to you. I thought last night they did an outstanding job, to be honest with you. Maybe they missed some things and I didn't always agree with all of the calls they had. But they explained what they saw. They called what they saw. For a game that had that much electricity in it and that much emotion in it, I thought those guys … when they call a good game, nobody says anything about it, everybody's looking at the one or two calls that you think they blew. Are penalties up, yeah. But if it's in the best interest of making sure the game gets played the right way, I don't have a problem with that. We've got to make sure as coaches that we get our guys to do it the right way. Some of that burden shouldn't be on the offcials, it should be on the coaches. Maybe we're not doing a good enough job.

Q: What did they explain to you on the Chidi (Iwuoma) interference call?
BC: The rule is, they were right, when you signal for a fair catch, you are giving up your opportunity to return the ball, but you are given an opportunity to catch the ball. It's a free opportunity to catch the ball, you don't have to catch it clean. If you bobble it, you have an opportunity to catch it. The ball that bounced off his chest and came out. In their interpretation, he still had a chance to catch it after it came out and hit the ground. You can say he was going back this way and the ball actually when beyond where his hands were reaching, but that's easy to see on replay. Chidi, I don't know what else he can do? The ball comes flying into your hands, you're not going to not catch it. I think it was the right application. I didn't like the initial ruling, I couldn't believe it. Then when they explained it, they were right. That's the way it was. They applied the right rule.

Q: Is it a bad rule?
BC: I didn't like the rule last night. No it's not. I understand it. I think there's a judgement involved like I said. He was going back and as he reached out, the ball was caught beyond where his extended hands were. So realistically, did he have a chance to catch the ball? No. But in the application of the rule, I can understand why they called it. He didn't have the luxury of seeing it on replay like we had as well. I understand the rule. I like the rule. I don't think it's an unfair rule at all.

Q: It looked like in the fourth quarter you were having a conversation with Polamalu on the bench. Was that about keeping his composure?
BC: No, that was about a coverage. We were talking about the swing pass thrown to LaDanian. We had a miscommunication as to how we were playing it and we were talking through it. Troy was pretty cool and collected. Troy's fine. You see Troy get emotional, you don't see that too often, him getting mad about things. He gets over it. He's fine. I didn't have a chance to talk about it much. We were talking defense, trying to get things straightened out because of some of the things we were trying to do defensively. It was more X and O-talk. Troy's fine.

Q: Did you do anything special for Tomlinson?
BC: Oh yeah. Not to go into specifics, but we did some things we had not shown before.

Q: Jackonville's tackles?
BC: Yeah, (John) Henderson and (Marcus) Stroud. We had them in the Pro Bowl and they're special guys. The runner, Fred Taylor, doesn't look like he's lost a step at all, either. You go from LaDananian Tomlinson to Fred Taylor, every week it's something. They play well and (Byron) Leftwich is a good quarterback. When we played them down there a year ago, he is a tough guy. He can thread the needle. He can read defenses. We know all about them. It's the same team we played a year ago and we were lucky to win then. It's going to be another battle again Sunday.

Q: Leftwich?
BC: He's a tough guy. He's a great leader. That's a football team that's in every game. You don't see them not in a football game. It's going to be a big challenge.

Q: It's been a while since you've lost back-to-back games. What does that say about a team when it refuses to lose that second game in a row?
BC: We've got good veteran leadership and we had a good week of work. We realized going out there and we don't take anything for granted. We had to address some things and we will continue to address some things. You have to get a little bit better from the other night. But we don't dwell on the losses like we don't dwell on the wins. The biggest thing is keeping an even keel and keeping things in perspective. The bottom line is that we're still in second place in our division and last night's win will mean nothing if we don't follow it up with a good showing. The ability to keep things in its proper perspective is a very important element. It's important that we don't fall behind Cincinnati because that's a good football team. We can't afford to do that. We're doing some good things, but we've got a ways to go. We've got some challenges ahead of us with some of the injuries that we have.

Q: That said, might last night's win be a defining moment for this team?
BC: I don't know if it was defining, but it was revealing. I said Monday morning before we played San Diego that it would reveal a lot about us as a football team and us individually. It's not so much about what you're able to do in beating San Diego, but it's what you can start continually to do week-in and week-out. We're not beating ourselves. I continue to say that. There are some things we need to do better. I continue to say that. I don't want to lose sight of the things we've done well that keep putting us in position to be in football games. You don't beat yourself with turnovers. You find a way to take the ball away. You don't committ foolish penalties. We had way too many penalties last night and we've got to make sure to look at that and address that. And we've had people step up. It's never been one guy that this team relies on. They've got to continue to believe that and trust that and recognize that the next guy who steps in has a responsibility to hold up to that position, whoever it may be and whatever position it may be. We've had a number of guys who have done that and will continue to do that. They understand. It's a close football team that believes in each other. At the same time, they recognize that every time you go out there, you have to prove yourself.

Q: That said, has James Harrison played well enough that when the other guys are healthy, he has to stay in the rotation?
BC: He's a good football player. James is one of those guys that if you see where he was and where he is now, it's a remarkable step forward. You're just watching the young man grow and he hasn't even been on a kickoff team last night, but on the last kickoff, he wants to go out there and make sure. To him, James doesn't want to come off the special teams because that's where he started. I always kid these guys, ‘Don't forget your roots.' He plays that way. He believes that. There are a lot of guys who have been like that on this football team. I don't want to slight anybody else. He's stepped in and played at a high level and I'm sure glad we have him on this football team.

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